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James Dean

James Dean

Famous As: Actor

Who was James Dean?

James Dean, who played the young and handsome protagonist in the drama film ‘Rebel Without a Cause,’ was a highly talented actor. Unfortunately, he was snatched away too soon from the face of the earth. Aged just 24 at the time of his death, James had already achieved more than what many others may achieve over a longer period of time. With his portrayal of a disillusioned teenager in ‘Rebel Without a Cause,’ he became a cultural icon of sorts. The 1950s was a period of great chaos in the American society, with young people trying hard to break free from the restrictions of the elders and the society. Released at such a time, ‘Rebel Without a Cause’ had James playing a rebellious man and the youngsters could easily relate to the character he portrayed. Dean had himself experienced a difficult childhood and could thus portray on the screen his heartfelt anguish and vulnerability. Having lost his mother to cancer when he was a little boy, he struggled hard to get over her death and move on. He chose to study drama in college which angered his father, adding to the youngster’s list of woes. However, he proved to be a natural at acting and was soon hailed as an emerging superstar. An automobile accident claimed his life, bringing an abrupt end to a promising career.

Career

He made his television debut by appearing in a ‘Pepsi Cola’ commercial. He then landed a role in the comedy ‘Sailors Beware’ which also had Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin. The initial years were very difficult for him and he often took up part-time jobs to make ends meet.

He moved to New York City and enrolled at the ‘Actors Studio’ to study under Lee Strasberg. While in New York, he worked as a stunt tester for the game show, ‘Beat the Clock.’

Throughout the early-1950s, he played small roles in various television programs, such as ‘Family Theater’ (1951), ‘The Bigelow Theatre’ (1951), ‘CBS Television Workshop’ (1952), and ‘Hallmark Hall of Fame’ (1952).

He starred in an Off-Broadway production of Franz Kafka’s ‘The Metamorphosis’ in 1952. It revolves around the tale of a man who transforms into a large, monstrous insect-like creature.

In 1954, he appeared in the Broadway production of ‘The Immoralist,’ which tells the story of a gay man who marries a woman hoping that the marriage would help him deal with his homosexual desires.

He played a role in the 1954 Off-Broadway play ‘The Scarecrow’ which was about a woman who creates a scarecrow with human-like features with the help of witchcraft. She then tries to use it to seek revenge on her former lover who had deserted her during her pregnancy.

In 1955, he played the role of ‘Cal,’ a young man who feels that his father prefers his brother Aron over him, in the movie ‘East of Eden.’ It was the first major role James played and received considerable appreciation for his acting skills.

In 1955, he also starred in what would become his best remembered role in the movie ‘Rebel Without a Cause.’ This movie became highly popular among teenagers who could easily identify with the character James played.

Timeline

February 8, 1931
James Dean was born.

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Further Resources

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Who was James Dean? Everything You Need to Know

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Who was James Dean? Everything You Need to Know

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